December 7, 2022


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Using Pills vs Powders In DIY products?

6 min read
Can you substitute the pill version of a particular ingredient when you're making your DIY products?
MSM powder form -

Should you use the pill form of additives in your haircare and skincare recipes in place of powders? I received a question from one of your fellow Subscribers about whether or not it was okay to crush up the pill version of MSM in a hair cream she wants to make to help improve her hair growth.  I recommend using MSM powder.In my opinion, it is better to use the powder form of MSM, and any other special additive, when using them in DIY recipes because the pill forms often contain extra ingredients called “fillers” and “binders”.

You may think crushing the pill form will yield real MSM powder and it’ll be just like powdered MSM sold by wholesalers. Not necessarily.

Let’s take the brand “Doctor’s Best” as an example. Doctor’s Best MSM pills not only contain MSM, but also Microcrystalline cellulose, stearic acid and magnesium stearate.

These ingredients are listed under “Other Ingredients” on the label and aren’t harmful in and of themselves. But why even bother with them in the first place when you can use a 100% powdered MSM?

Microcrystalline cellulose is used as an anti-caking agent and “bulking agent” used in food production. Bulking agents, when used in foods, are sometimes meant to increase food volume or weight. My personal suspicion is that these bulking agents are used so companies can stretch out the amount of the main ingredient they need to add to each product. But that’s not important right now. 😛

Stearic Acid, as you DIYers know, is used to help thicken products. In supplements, stearic acid “acts as a lubricant to fill capsules when a dry powdered ingredient… is uncooperative”. Stearic acid is one of the main fats in Cocoa butter and Capuacu butter.

Magnesium stearate is a combination of stearic acid and magnesium itself, according to online information.

The technical term for these types of extra ingredients are “excipients”, which are just natural or synthetic “substances formulated alongside the active ingredient” of medications, vitamins, etc.

Let’s look at another brand of MSM made by the company “NOW”. Just like Doctor’s Best, NOW‘s pill version of MSM also contains Stearic Acid and Magnesium Stearate.

However, NOW also sells MSM powder which is only MSM; no fillers or binders. The only thing it contains is MSM. This is the version you want to use to gauge whether or not your recipe is working well. If the DIY recipe you make with it doesn’t work, at least you’ll know it’s not because you used an inferior version of MSM powder.

Many pill versions of an active ingredient or vitamin will have fillers and “binders” in them meant to hold ingredients together in tablet form and/or prevent the pills from sticking together or sticking to the surface of the container.

However, if you just shift your focus to looking for MSM powder (or any other additive you want to add), you’ll find what you need. I know it may be a slight hassle, but try to find one with JUST that ingredient and nothing else.

If you use the powder form of an additive, you can begin to evaluate the following: Maybe MSM just doesn’t work well for you? Maybe you didn’t use it for a long enough period of time? Maybe you didn’t use a high enough percentage of MSM powder in your recipe?

If you choose to crush the pills up and add it to your recipe, you’ll not only have to answer those questions, but you’ll also have to evaluate the following: Maybe the magnesium stearate, Microcrystalline cellulose, or the stearic acid is interfering with the absorption of MSM into my scalp?

This also applies to using supplements of Vitamin E. Unless you’ve confirmed by reading the ingredients that the softgel version of Vitamin E ONLY contains the vitamin itself, just try to get a small bottle of a very high quality Vitamin E.

Some vitamin E capsules/soft gels also contain other oils which, in my opinion, is meant to let the company get away with stretching out their supply of Vitamin E. But that’s just my unsubstantiated suspicion. 😛

Take for example “Nature’s Way” Vitamin E softgel pills. You may think all you need to do is cut the softgel (or many of them) and squeeze the contents out for a recipe. However, Nature’s Way Vitamin E pills also contain “glycerin, soybean oil, water”. It’s not just Nature’s Way though.

The company “Source Naturals” also makes a Vitamin E supplement which contains “microcrystalline cellulose, stearic acid, modified cellulose gum, silica, and magnesium stearate”. Some of these ingredients should be familiar to you from above. Many companies use some combination of these types of “Other Ingredients” in the pill version of their vitamins/minerals.

But the question is if you want to add Vitamin E to your DIY conditioner, for example, why would you bother with those little extra ingredients when you don’t know how they would affect transdermal (through the skin) absorption of Vitamin E on your scalp/skin?

Just get regular vitamin E oil if you can. HOWEVER, you also have to be careful here as well. Not all “Vitamin E Oil” products are created equal. Turn it over and read the label. Some liquid vitamin E oils also contain fillers/extra ingredients.

For example, the brand “Hobe Naturals” makes a “Vitamin E Oil” that also contains “safflower oil, lemon oil”. They are by far not the only brand to add extra oils/ingredients into their mix.

NOTE: I use Vitamin E MT-50 almost exclusively. I have, however, used pure store-bought vitamin E before as well.

“Nature’s Gate” makes a “Vitamin E Acetate Skin Oil” which also contains “Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract.” If you love those ingredients, by all means give it a shot. Just be aware of what you’re using.

See what I mean? Just take the other extra ingredients out of the equation and start with a pure powdered form (if you can find it) or a pure liquid form of whatever additive you want to use in your DIY mixes so you’ll know whether it actually works for you or not.

Happy DIYing!


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